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A Closer Look at BIG DATA

September 21, 2012

Most organizations need to address core data needs and technology infrastructure issues before launching big data initiatives, research released by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the IT industry, suggests.

CompTIA’s Big Data Insights and Opportunities study finds low levels of familiarity – only 37 percent of IT and business executives report being very familiar or mostly familiar with the concept of big data. 

Approximately one in five businesses have a big data initiative underway, while 36 percent plan to embark on one in the next 12 months.

“As expected for an emerging technology with an evolving definition, many executives are still moving along the big data learning curve,” said Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA.

Accounts of large retailers, government agencies, healthcare providers, utilities and other organizations doing things with big data offer a glimpse into the potential of this trend. But the reality is that most organizations have far more basic data-related needs.

“Not every business will need a big data strategy,” Herbert said. “But just about every business will need to effectively aggregate, store, manage and analyze the data they do have, regardless of its volume, velocity or variety.”

Slightly more than one-third of survey respondents say they are exactly or very close to where they want to be in managing and using data. In relatively few areas do businesses report proficiency – just 20 percent of respondents say they are currently doing well at analyzing web traffic patterns; 15 percent at measuring email marketing campaign effectiveness; and 12 percent at social media monitoring

“Basic work needs to be done before many companies are ready for a big data initiative,” Herbert noted. “Many companies are still struggling with analytics, storage, backup and business continuity.”

The CompTIA study reveals a number of other data-related challenges:

• Nearly three in four companies report a high or moderately high degree of data silos within their organization, making it difficult to view data holistically.
• Many do not have a complete or accurate understanding of their data profile, especially as it relates to unstructured data, such as audio and video files and social streams of data.
• Just one in three companies have a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place.

As companies work to improve their data utilization and move closer to realizing the possibilities of big data, they will have to contend with the possibility of workforce skills gaps.

“Big data initiatives often require bringing together technical, analytical, statistical and creative thinking skills,” said Herbert. “Historically, these skill sets have been somewhat compartmentalized, a situation many companies will need to address.”

Fifty-nine percent of respondents want to either start or improve upon their capabilities in detecting patterns in their data, while 67 percent want to do the same with relationship analytics, such as understanding how variables are correlated.

Slightly more than half of companies (53 percent) plan to invest in training to further develop the skills of current employees. Thirty-two percent expect to explore hiring options to add new staff with the desire expertise. Key areas where companies what to further develop skills and capabilities include:

• 51 percent – Strategic planning and developing long-term roadmaps for data, storage and related areas
• 45 percent – Business continuity and disaster recovery
• 28 percent – Regulatory compliance and best practices related to data retention, encryption, etc.
• 27 percent – Cloud-based data storage


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